Director of The Girl In the Spider’s Web Fede Alvarez doesn’t seem to understand the material he’s been tasked with adapting. His film diminishes a great female antihero into a set of familiar female tropes that should get women everywhere burning bras in protest.
Based on the fourth book in the Millennium series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web follows hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) after she is approached by computer scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant). Balder needs her to help him get back access to a dangerous program that could result in an all-out war if it falls into the wrong hands. After Lisbeth gains control of the program for Balder, her house is ransacked by a criminal organisation known as the Spider Society and the program is stolen. Lisbeth must now track down the Spider Society and get the program back before they use it to cause chaos.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes seven years after David Fincher’s American adaption of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Too much time has passed for this new film to follow on from the first, but the gap isn’t long enough to be attracting a new audience, so the film sits in this awkward middle zone. It’s basically the film fans of the series never asked for.
Beyond the bizarre timing of the film’s release, director Fede Alvarez fails to understand the essence of the series and therefore the film lacks any of the grit of Fincher’s film, or even the Swedish trilogy of adaptations by Niels Arden Oplev and Daniel Alfredson. Alvarez comes from a strong horror background, with credits in films like Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead and the TV series From Dusk Till Dawn. At the very least you’d expect some cheap scare shots just to give the film a bit of life, but the film is ultimately bland and uneventful.
Claire Foy takes on the role of Lisbeth Salander, and while she starts off strong, she quickly reduces the complex character to an easily distracted, emotional wreck. Her look is also a little too tame and she isn’t as young and boyish as Lisbeth is meant to be. Both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara, who played Lisbeth in the Swedish trilogy and Fincher’s version respectively, managed to nail the look and characterisation of Lisbeth. They also each had their own interpretation of the character, meaning the odds were stacked against Foy from the beginning.
Equally, Sverrir Gudnason, who plays another iconic character from the Millennium series, is a complete non-event. As journalist Mikael Blomkvist, he adds nothing to the story and isn’t old enough to capture the uncomfortable nature of Lisbeth and Mikael’s relationship. He’s patched into the story and then becomes dead weight when he’s captured by the bad guys and rendered useless.
The best part of this film is the underutilised Sylvia Hoeks who plays Camilla Salander, Lisbeth’s estranged sister, but even her dark portrayal of a woman who’s been abused her whole life doesn’t do enough to save this film.
What had the potential to break Foy out from the shackles of The Crown is let down by a weak script and complete misdirection of the characterisation of Lisbeth. An embarrassment to the Millennium series, I’d give this film a hard miss.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web is available in Australian cinemas from November 8
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures